Write Prose Like the Pros: Beats in the Dialogue

What are beats? Beats are bits of action narrated during dialogue. This would be called stage business or blocking when reading a stage play. There are also internal beats where a character has a short passage of interior monologue. Beats can help change the pace and tension of a scene depending on how many are used. Fewer beats give a faster pace and can help build tension in an argument scene. Too many beats can stop the pace of the story and move at the same speed as an entire page of narrative summary.

Don’t use too many beats and don’t use too few. What’s the right amount? It depends on the scene. Use fewer beats to build tension. Use more beats to slow things down and give the reader some time to breath. Peaks and valleys. In most cases, there only needs to be enough to keep the reader in the scene. If the scene takes place in a machine shop, an occasional commentary on noise being heard will remind the reader where the characters are speaking. Beats are also important for showing body language to the reader. This is as important as what the character says.

Beats help break up the page making it more engaging. A full page of a one paragraph narrative summary may look boring on the page. That narrative may be important but it’s easy to break it up with beats or internal beats. Through a couple internal beats into the paragraph and now there’s several paragraph on one page and some short internal monologue. But don’t overdo it. If it isn’t important to the story or plot and doesn’t help move the story or plot along its path, it isn’t needed. Do what’s right for the scene and the story overall.

The best place to learn how to improve one’s writing is with Renni Browne and Dave King’s “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print.” If I were teaching a class on fiction writing, this is the book I would use as the course textbook.

Poetry Monday: Tearful Tension

Pick at your fingernails
Pull the skin off your lips
Rejoice in solitude
Panic from loneliness
Obsess over small things
Freak out for no reason
Blame yourself for nothing
Assume they all hate you
Shut down when you should rise
Push away those who love
Too much is on your mind
Too much stimulation
You just want to be held
You don’t want to be touched
Anger and frustration
You feel broken and dead
Every day you’re drowning
Each day is a battle

From the poetry collection Men Are Garbage.

Why I Share Articles About Anxiety

As I have grown to understand the full scope of my anxiety, I am more open about discussing anxiety.  I tell people I have anxiety.  Some believe they can relate and are sympathetic.  Some do have anxiety but never speak of their own struggles.  I sometimes wonder if they think I am brave for vocalizing mine.  Then there are others who do not understand anything.  They associate anxiety with being nervous before a test or feeling stressed at work.  They do not feel anxious every second of every day.  They are why I share articles about anxiety.

Someone offered me a neck and shoulder rub.  They said, “You’re so tense.  Loosen up.  Relax.”  I replied, “I always feel like this.  This IS me relaxed.”  At the time, I did not know all the physical symptoms of anxiety.  I have experienced muscle tension as long as I can remember.  I did not realize I lived with this condition for almost 20 years.  Everyone says I look tense, on edge, or hyper alert.  It makes them uncomfortable, but they have no idea how uncomfortable I am.  Their discomfort goes away; mine is constant.  They are why I share articles about anxiety.

I want to understand myself, so I can heal and grow.  I want other people to better understand where I am coming from and possibly appreciate me a little more.  I want potential romantic partners to understand why I worry or lack confidence in myself.  I want everyone to be patient with me and understanding.  I want to be loved in a way I have never known.  I want to feel comfortable and at ease with someone; with everyone.  I want to feel like I am not a burden to everyone around me.  That is why I share articles about anxiety.  That is why I write articles about anxiety.